Friday, November 20, 2009

Principal's Message

December has arrived, and with it the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. I am looking forward to the Winter Concert, where for an evening I can bask in the lovely voices of our children and enjoy the wonderful sounds of our bands.

My thanks to all of the families who monitored their children’s health as the flu season arrived. While we did have one day with 120 students absent, the numbers quickly took a downward turn back to normal. The efforts we have put into reminding students to wash their hands and/or use sanitizer seems to have made a significant impact on keeping kids healthy.

Teachers reported how much they enjoyed meeting everyone who attended parent conferences. I had several conversations with parents who praised the work of our teachers and related how much their children like school. Conferences are just one of the ways Ashford School works to keep parent–school communications lines open.

How many of you are aware of how learning at Ashford School at times occurs “outside”? In the past few weeks I have seen fourth graders outside measuring the amount of water displaced by submerging “pumpkins” in a large pail of water, students with Mrs. Moran observing how sun dials work, and eighth grade students on field trips looking for and identifying different kinds of fungi both in front of the school and on the nature trail. Ashford School is fortunate to have a beautiful nature trail behind the school that all grades have access to and which is used year-round.

As we move into the end of the month, my thoughts go out to everyone for a safe and happy holiday season.

Two Faculty Members Present at CTAHPERD Fall Conference

On November 19, 2009, Mrs. Hardisty attended the Connecticut Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CTAHPERD) Fall Conference where she presented on the topic “Character Education Should NOT Be Passe.”

At the same conference, Mr. Phelps presented on the use of TRYKKES at Ashford School in the vendor area.

Music Department News

Nineteen Ashford School students recently participated in a regional musical festival in Putnam, CT. The Quinebaug Valley Middle School Musical Festival (QVMSMF) began 4 years ago when area music teachers were looking for an opportunity for the students to develop and show off their skills in concert band and chorus.

Mrs Porri and Miss Dotson, Ashford School’s music teachers, selected student participants based ability as well as character. These nineteen students represented the top musicians and leaders in the school. Band students included: Caleigh C., Jennie R., Caitlin E., Tessa W., Megan M., Cassie H., Adam C., Joseph C. and Chris P.. Chorus students included: Brooke N., Erica M., Martha S., Matt S., Ben L., Kayla B., Sarah C., Jessica B., Shelby C.. and Laina F..

Ashford students combined with students from ten other communities for rehearsals on November 9th and 12th and then performed a public concert on the evening of November 12th. Despite very limited rehearsal time, both the choir and band performed difficult music with skill and excellence. Special thanks to all of the students for their dedication and hard work.

November Technology News Items

by Marji Roy, Technology Coordinator

Lexia Reading Update Invalid Code Info:

Many teachers have been using the Lexia Reading program in school and encouraging students to use it at home. Please note that when you download it at home you MUST include the dashes when you enter the school code. If you do not you will get a message indicating that the code is invalid and to contact your child's teacher. If you entered an invalid code you can fix it by launching Lexia and then immediately holding down the “a” and “s” keys. This will again direct you to the configuration page and you can correct the login code. Also of great excitement is that some of the stimulus money from the federal government is being used to update computers in grade 1 classrooms to better implement this new Lexia Reading program.

BOE Photo Policy Change:

Photos of school events will soon be appearing on the Ashford School web site ( The Board of Education has recently changed the policy banning all recognizable photos. We can now include photos and movies of students. They can only be identified using a first name. All parents were asked permission on the universal permission form that was distributed at the beginning of the year. We still will not publish photos for any student whose parents requested that we not do so. Teachers are excited about this change especially because we have been learning how to create podcasts and other multi-media presentations. Keep tuned!

Lunch Payment News:

Have you tried paying for school lunches online yet? This new service is operational and taking the hassle out of sending in lunch money. Refer to the guide sheet sent home in order to set up your account and pay for school lunches directly with your online bill pay. There is additional information about the process at the Lunch Info area on the school website.

Sounds Abound in Fifth Grade

Submitted by the Fifth Grade Team

If you know a fifth grader who attends Ashford School you may have had he pleasure of listening to a serenade on the pan pipes or a lively tune played on a “sound sandwich.” These handmade instruments are just one part of the exciting learning taking place on the fascinating topic of sound. Fifth grade teachers have been co-teaching with the enrichment teacher, Carol Moran, to present inquiry-based, high-interest, and hands-on lessons.

In September, the students explored vibration. They used tuning forks to strike a surface and designed and conducted experiments to see how different objects would sound when struck by the vibrating fork. The most entertaining part was watching the effect the fork had on striking a cup of water – splash! After learning that all sounds are created by vibrations, students analyzed the qualities of sound.

In early October, classes went outside and analyzed absorption and reflection at work. Sounds reflected (echoed) off smooth, flat surfaces like our school and were absorbed by items with rough surfaces like the trees in the forest near our playground. It is encouraging as a teacher to see that the children are natural scientists: questioning, everything around them, analyzing variables, and brainstorming future experiments.

Later in the month students were involved in an in-depth study of pitch. They identified high- and low- pitched sounds and examined factors that alter pitch. This led easily into connections with musical instruments. Many children demonstrated their background knowledge of instruments and how length and tension can change pitch. We examined xylophones and the length and position of the keys in relation to the pitch that they made. There are a great many web-based resources to enhance student learning in this area that are fun for students and families alike. Try out these fantastic sties to make “sounds abound’ in your home!

PreSchool Parent Information Night

by Mrs. Lusa, Preschool Teacher

On Wednesday, November 4th, a group of preschool parents gathered in the library for a presentation on what their children are learning in preschool. After a brief presentation on the Connecticut State Preschool Frameworks, the parents went to work on “being a preschooler.” Groups of parents rotated through four different activities and experienced some of the things that are done in preschool. They used blocks, playdough, lotto/puzzles and did some sorting and patterning activities. They were asked to look at a list of preschool skills and identify which ones the children could learn in each activity. At the end of the meeting, one parent commented, “When I ask my child what they did that day at school, they always answer 'I played'. Now I know why they say that.” Play is a young child’s way of learning!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kids With Character - Citizenship in the Form of Community Service

by Mrs Hardisty, Health/ Physical Education Teacher

Citizenship is alive and well in Ashford. There is a requirement for health class that is part of our Character Education program. Each student must complete a three-hour service project, outside of the school day. Students have a large variety of options from which to choose, and some choose a large variety. More than half our junior high population traditionally completes more than one service project, even though it’s not required. This reflects on their outstanding character and commitment. They recognize that others provided opportunities for them when they were small, and that they can do the same in return.

So far this year students have volunteered at Family Fun Day, the PTO Ice Cream Social and the Halloween Party. PTO Chairpersons, Mrs. York from Ashford Park and Recreation and Mrs. McDonough from Ashford Youth Services all rely on older students to help run the activities at these community-wide events. They are not disappointed. Kids have also provided childcare services to staff for our half-day professional development and during parent/teacher conferences. An 8th grade girl manned the K-12 Early Alert table at Open House for two nights. Several boys volunteered at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp as “bike valets” for those who rode 15 to 50 miles for a fundraiser. We also had one student and one staff member participate in the ride. We always have a strong showing at the Relay for Life. This year was not different. One young lady baked and then sold the proceeds during the Relay. She contributed $397.00 to the American Cancer Society. Another young lady helped at the Hartford Marathon and an 8th grade boy took on the messy job of cleaning up his road.

Two exciting projects are ongoing. Four 8th grade girls are working together on a “Mitten Tree.” They will be collecting new mittens, gloves, scarves, hats and socks to distribute both locally and regionally before the winter break. Five 7th grade boys have taken on the daunting task of raising the funds to purchase a kinetic sculpture by local artist David Roy. They hope to mount it in the lower lobby for all to see, wonder at, and enjoy during community events. Look for their fundraising ideas through the year and support them when you can.

Finally, not to be out done, the 6th graders accepted the annual responsibility of collecting for UNICEF. They always have a little help from junior high students, which is appreciated. With six boxes still uncounted, they exceeded their goal and reached a current total of $608.40. One student earned special recognition for his sole contribution of $333.80. Ben C. has truly gone above and beyond the call of duty!

Junior high students are ready, willing and able to perform community service to help Ashford School be the best little school possible!

Ashford School's Teacher of the Year

Colleagues have chosen third grade teacher Gail Christopher as Ashford’s Teacher of the Year for 2009-10. Mrs. Christopher has completed thirty-one years of teaching, thirty of them at Ashford School. Among her many contributions is her role as third-grade team coordinator and CORE coordinator for grades 1-3. Mrs. Christopher has worked on numerous curriculum committees. She is currently a member of the Science Curriculum Committee. Over the years Mrs. Christopher has overseen several student teachers. She has also volunteered in various PTO-sponsored events such as Family Fun Day and participated in the faculty variety show.

“I have taught third grade for most of my career and absolutely love working with eight- and nine-year-old children,”’ notes Mrs. Christopher. This dedication to teaching is highlighted by comments from students.

Nathan says, "She's awesome and teaches us a lot. She helps us so we can get better at stuff."

Faiths adds, "She's one of the best teachers and doesn't really yell that much. One day it was really hot and she gave us pops.”

PJ states, “She's an excellent teacher. Very smart."

And Katie adds, “"She always gives us pencils and rewards if we do something right."